Tag Archive: vacation


Winter Lights

Christmas is just around the corner, which means that the lights go up (as well as the electricity bill) in all the homes and around the city. Over the past few weeks the busy streets of Vienna have started to sparkle. The Christmas markets, called Weihnachtsmarktes in German have also popped up everywhere.

The lights on Kärtnerstraße heading away from the center of the city.

Kärtnerstraße2

Kärtnerstraße

Lights on Kärtnerstraße heading towards the Opera House. This is one of the popular shopping streets.

Shopping

A random street.

I like these the most. It looks like it is raining light.

Snowing Lights

Schönbrunn has a Christmas market out front. Every night the building is lit as well as the Christmas tree in front. This is probably my favorite market so far. It’s touristy, but there aren’t too many people, plus the giant palace in the back just adds to the beauty.

Schönbrunn

Schönbrunn Christmas Tree

Chandeliers hang from the buildings along the Graben. Both Kärtnerstraße and the Graben were flocking with tourists and Christmas shoppers. It’s worth seeing the lights, but be prepared to do some ducking and dodging.

Graben

The Rathaus. Probably the most crowded place in Vienna at night. This is one of the bigger Christmas markets and it is always packed with people, to the point where it’s almost impossible to move between the Christmas stalls.

Rathaus

An ornament stall at the Rathaus. There are toys, candy, chocolate, ornaments, classic Austrian foods, and of course the famous Glühwein (mulled wine) and punsch (flavored schnapps)!

Ornament Stall

Lights

St. Stephen’s

St. Stephen's

A giant Christmas tree of lights by Schottenring.

X-mas Tree

Even the grocery stores are covered with lights!

Billa

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We went to the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek or Austrian National Library one day for class. This is the library that resides in one section of the Hofburg Palace. Part of it is very old and only used as a museum of sorts, but the rest is used by people in Vienna for their research.

It was like a library from out of my dreams, with shelves full of books going all the way to the ceiling, spiral staircases and secret rooms full of even more books!

The National Library was built in the Baroque style and by Charles VI, the last Habsburg man and father of Maria Theresa. He created a rule called the Pragmatic Sanction that allowed Maria Theresa to take his place, because he could not produce any male heirs. After his death the Habsburgs become Habsburg-Lorraine.

The bookshelves were so high that ladders are needed to reach the top.

The books are so old that the pages have turned dark brown. Everything is hand printed and many of them have beautiful illustrations with the boldest colors I’ve ever seen. We were lucky enough to have our professor there who knew one of the tour guides personally, so we got to see some of the books close up. The covers are also made out of wood.

There were secret rooms all throughout the library. They are not actually supposed to hide anything though.The room was built in an oval shape, but the building itself is square so they had extra nooks to fill in.

The ceiling at the entrance to the library.

The domed ceiling of the central part of the library.

A statue of Charles VI, which stands in the middle of the library.

After we looked around the old library our guide took us underneath the Hofburg to reach the new section of the library. I felt very official walking through all the secret underground tunnels and using the non-public elevator.

We walked by the ventilation system for the library, which is underneath a garden.

The never ending archive room.

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I have two ten-page papers due at the end of my semester. One of them is about the Turkish sieges on Vienna, but the other one is on Art Nouveau and specifically the Art Nouveau movement in Vienna. Since I’m right in the middle of one of the most artistic cities in Europe it was easy for me to simply walk outside and do my research through sightseeing.

The Art Nouveau movement in Vienna was specifically called the Secession, because a group of artists left the Künstlerhaus. They believed it was too restricting. In this group was Koloman Moser, Joseph Maria Olbrich and most famous of all Gustav Klimt. Later Otto Wagner would join the movement a little later, but he was also a large player in the movement. 

The first place I visited was the Karlsplatz station, which was built by Otto Wagner. He is responsible for a lot of different buildings in Vienna and he also worked on the Ringstraße.

Karlsplatz is one of the larger U-Bahn stations in Vienna. This particular exit is not used too often, but it is really beautiful and probably the most artistic of the Karlsplatz stations. Its name comes from the Karlskirche (Charles Church), which is only about two minutes from here.

Gold, nature and swirling patterns some basic themes in Art Nouveau.

This actually looks like the front, but it is the back of the station. No one can exit through these doors from the U-Bahn.

Detail on the station.

One of the doors. I love the attention to detail. Its simple yet beautiful.

Next I headed over the the Secession building, which was built by Joseph Maria Olbrich. At one point in his life Olbrich worked under Wagner and many of his buildings are similar to Wagner’s own work. Olbrich built the Secession building specifically so that the artists had a place to exhibit their work. Today it still hosts exhibits and has one of Gustav Klimt’s famous works, the Beethoven Frieze.

The Secession building.

Many people hated it when it was first build, because of the golden ball on top. They called it a cabbage or a furnace. Personally, I think it looks cool on its own, but I was surprised by it the first time I saw it, because it doesn’t look like anything else in the area.

Olbrich built this building as a “temple to art” so the entrance is very ceremonial, but inside the building is completely white and plain. This was because the Secessionists believed in functionality over form.

The three heads over the doorway. They are the three Gorgons, representing painting, architecture and sculpture, which are the arts that the Secessionists mastered in.

Above the Gorgons are the words of the Secessionist’s motto, Der Zeit Ihre Kunst, Der Kunst Ihre Freiheit.

To Every Age Its Art, To Art Its Freedom

The side of the building.

Owls on the side of the Secession.

It was a monday night, but Ari, Annika and I still decided that it was worth it to go to a concert by Mika. We traveled a long way from the center of the city to a place called the Gasometer. The Gasometer is actually one of four old gas tanks, which the city used to store gas. They were shut down a while ago, but now they are used for student housing, movie theater, shopping, restaurants, and a concert hall.

Our tickets had no seat numbers so we knew we had to arrive early to get a good standing place. We stepped right off the U-Bahn and there was the Gasometer, but the map was really confusing and we spent about a half hour trying to figure out how we could get to the concert hall, which was ground-level. All the elevators inside the building were closed or locked, so eventually we had to make our way back outside until we found the ground floor entrance. By the time we got there the line was long, but nothing that we were worried about.

Once inside we headed straight to the concert hall and stationed ourselves right at the front. Lucky for us there weren’t that many people there yet and we were only two people back from the stage.

*These pictures aren’t the best, because they were taken with my phone, but they do show just how close we were.*

Mika had a backup choir dressed in these horrible polka dot sheets. He said something about the choir only having rehearsed with them once. Sometimes he would look at them and laugh, because they were dressed so ridiculously, but they were having fun dance and acting along with Mika’s crazy performance.

I always worry that the bands I go see won’t be as good live, but so far they haven’t let me down!

The concert was really amazing, and what I liked about it most was the fact that Mika was so informal. He was constantly changing the set list, which probably made his new band a little nervous, but if they made a mistake he would joke around with them. It was really refreshing to see an artist that doesn’t take himself too seriously. He was constantly jumping around stage and dancing like he was just enjoying life and couldn’t care less what people thought.

Annika probably has the best description of him, she called him a “mischievous elf”.

It was a great night and although we were tired the next day it was worth every minute.

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It’s been months since I went to the Imperial Crypt of the Habsburgs, but I returned to it one day with my class. This time I knew a lot more about the different people buried there after learning about basically every Habsburg that was ever important.

The rituals of the Habsburg’s burials were very important. Whenever one of them died, the heart was removed as well as the organs. These are stored in the crypt in St. Stephens. Although, the hearts are placed in different places depending on what each individual Habsburg wanted. They would also drain them of blood and fill their bodies with sawdust or other concoctions, which differed depending on the person who was preparing the body.

There is also a ritual that the body must go through to enter the crypt. First the dead are lead around Ringstraße and taken to St. Stephens where Mass is held. Then the body is transported to the crypt. Outside the many names and titles of the deceased are listed off, but the body is not allowed to enter. Slowly the titles are reduced until it is only the deceased’s name and yet they are still not allowed to enter the crypt. Finally, the name of the deceased is reduced to simply, “a dead man” and they are allowed to enter the crypt and in turn enter death just as they had entered the world.

The sarcophagi are made out of tin and often have to be restored or else they warp. Inside the sarcophagi are wood coffins.

The first part of the crypt is very different from the last half. This is because the coffins in the first half were built during the Baroque period and therefore they are adorned with entire figures made out of tin, while the most recent coffins, in the last part of the crypt, are simpler and made only a few years ago.

The front of Leopold I’s sarcophgus. He was one of the Baroque emperors and was ruler of the Habsburg lands during the 1683 Turkish siege. He spent most of his life fighting, but is said to have been a peace-loving man. The skull and leaves stand for victory over death.

The largest of the sarcophagi is the one for Maria Theresa and her husband Francis Stephen of Lorraine. Maria Theresa is on the left and her husband on the right. They were very much in love and when he died first she would visit him in the crypt until she could no longer walk. Together they had 16 children, probably the best known being Marie Antoinette. Maria Theresa was a very forward thinking ruler and she passed many reforms that benefitted her people.

Just to the right of Maria Theresa is the simple sarcophagus of the nanny who took care of Maria Theresa’s children. She is the only non-Habsburg to be buried in the crypt.

In the background is the sarcophagus of Maria Theresa. In the foreground is the sarcophagus of Joseph II, the son of Maria Theresa. They co-ruled for a time and when Maria Theresa died Joseph took control. He was one of the very first ruler that was truly of the Enlgihtenment and many would say far too ahead of his time.

He was a very practical thinking man. He opened the Prater and Augarten in Vienna to the public, which as you can imagine did not make some of the more wealthy very happy and he abolished torture and serfdom. However, some of his reforms were too drastic for the time. He believed religion should be an individual matter and the church subservient to the state, which was hard for people to understand when the church had always been so involved in their lives. He closed down 700 monasteries, becoming so extreme that the Pope himself visited Vienna to make him stop.

Joseph was also known for creating fake coffins, which had trap doors on the bottom so that the bodies could be dumped in the grave and the coffin reused without anyone knowing. Some believe that it is because of Joseph that Mozart’s body has never been found.

He also built a hospital for the poor in Vienna with a smaller building behind it for the clinically insane. This is the hospital in which I now have my German classes.

Joseph’s sarcophagus is lower than Maria Theresa’s because he was such a practical man and wanted to be at the level of his own people.

Franz Joseph and his wife Elisabeth, also known as Sisi. Sisi was loved by many, especially Franz Joseph, but she never really loved him back. She spent most of her time traveling. She was a mediator between Austria and Hungary and helped to create the Austro-Hungarian Empire. She was killed by an Italian anarchist on one trip.

Crown Prince Rudolf is to the right of Franz Joseph. He was one of the only Habsburgs to be tutored by someone other than a noble professor. He is said to have died on a hunting accident, but many believe that he killed himself. They also found a mistress dead with him. It is not known if he killed her or if she wanted to die with him, because she loved him so much.

Charles I.

After WW I he was asked to step down and the Habsburg Empire was no more. He was exiled to Switzerland, but always had a dream of coming back to try to reclaim his “rightful” place. His body is not in the crypt because of his exile.

Day 64: Pergamonmuseum

We headed to the Pergamonmuseum early in the morning. The line to enter wasn’t too long and since it was so early there weren’t too many people in the museum yet.

I was most excited about this museum. The Pergamon Altar is reconstructed inside the museum, although not exactly the way it was in the original city of Pergamon.

Around the bottom of the altar runs a frieze of an epic battle between the Olympian gods and the Titans. Much of the frieze was destroyed, but a good portion of it was saved so that some of the gods could be identified. When the altar was in its original form the frieze ran along the entire outside of the altar. The most important parts of the battle were depicted on the back of the altar, because people were forced to walk the entire altar before reaching the front. In the museum the back portion of the frieze has been moved in front of the altar instead.

The steps up to the altar.

Athena battling the Titans.

The next room opened into a reconstruction of a gate that lead to a Roman marketplace.

Market Gate of Miletus

And the last reconstruction was of the Ishtar Gate, one of the gates leading into the city of Babylon.

Entrance to Babylon

The Processional Way, partly a reconstruction of the pathway people would have walked down to reach the gate.

The special exhibit in the museum was Islamic art.

Wood paneled ceiling. The attention to detail was amazing.

We decided that we were done with museums after we finished with the Pergamon. Our roommate at the hostel told us about another part of the wall that we could visit with paintings and murals, so we decided to visit that and get some fresh air.

This section of the wall was much bigger than the last one we visited and the entire east side was painted by different artists.

Once the east side came to an end we looped around to the west side, which mostly follows along the river, but there is also a park.

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The next day was a Sunday and a day full of traveling disasters!

Halfway through our first train ride, the conductor announced that there was something wrong with the train and that we would be about an hour and a half late. This completely messed up the rest of our day and made it so that we missed both of our connections to Vienna.

However, it was not only one train that had problems, every train we rode was in some way late. On one of them we even had to take the “old track” as the conductor said.

It was a stressful day, considering that even though we all speak German, we still couldn’t understand what the conductor said half the time.

What should have been an easy and pleasant ride back to Vienna turned into a 15 hour day, but we all arrived home safe and sound, just in time to sleep before class the next morning.

We visited the Brandenburger Gate the following day. The gate was constructed in 1788 and during the Cold War it stood directly along the line that divided East and West Berlin. Although the gate has a dark history, today it is actually the place of many parties and festivals.

When we arrived at the gate it was early so there were not too many people standing around, however, there were some protesters standing in front of the gate. Their signs were hard to read, but we could catch that they were speaking Spanish and talking about Mexico. We were all a little confused about the protest, but later in the day the protest played a small role in our plans.

After admiring the gate we walked through it to the other side where the Reichstag is located. Originally, we had planned on going up into the dome that sits on top of the building, but the day before we left for vacation their online site said that the dome was closed during our stay in Berlin.

We went as close as we could to the building, most of the area in front is closed off because of security reasons, and took some pictures before deciding to leave. As we were leaving I passed by some of the Reichstag employees and just for fun asked when the Reichstag would open again. To our great surprise they said that it would be opened that very same day at three. We immediately jumped on the opportunity and stood in line to get a reservation time.

Between us and the Reichstag were a number of gates and also a small building which had metal detectors and security.

Dem Deutschen Volke, meaning the German People.

Before touring the Reichstag we had enough time to walk to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, only a short walk from the Reichstag. It was designed by  Peter Eisenman. The memorial is an entire city block full of stones, which start out beneath your feet and slowly grow taller as you move towards the center. The memorial is somewhat like a maze, because once the stones towered over my head it was hard to tell where I was. The ground was uneven and moved up and down like a wave.

After walking the memorial we visited the German Historical Museum, which houses 2,000 years of German history. Although, all that history was a little much to take in one trip, I found it really interesting to see the progression over time of an entire people. Plus, it was always exciting to see things that we had talked about in our classes in Austria.

Once we were finished we still had time for lunch so, just by coincidence we stumbled upon a popular restaurant chain called Vapiano. It is somewhere between a nice restaurant and a fast food joint. Upon entering we were handed a card, which we brought up to our counter of choice (pizza, salad, pasta or dessert) and ordered our food. Once the food was finished all we had to do was place our card on a scanner and they would punch in our order. This was a simple and easy way to get food and you don’t have to pay until after eating. It’s always a plus when the food is really delicious too.

After our October break, we discovered a Vapiano just down the street from where Ari lives and we’ve gone there quite a few times.

It was around four and finally our time to go up the Reichstag. We went a little early and were able to get through security quickly and without hassle. After that we were shuffled inside and then took the biggest elevator I’ve ever seen (it could fit 50 people) up to the roof. The glass dome was really cool to see and a work of art in itself.

Inside the dome the platforms circled around, sloping upwards until they reached the top where there is an opening in the roof and a place for people to sit.

The center support was covered in mirrors.

After a nice wander up the Reichstag we headed to Museum Insel (Island) to try to fit in one last museum. I had really wanted to go to the Pergamonmuseum, which holds the Pergamon Altar, but Ari wanted to go to the Neues Museum, so we decided to split up. However, when I reach the Pergamon it was already closing. Disappointing as it was I still wanted to do something on our last night, so I followed Ari and Addison to the Neues Museum.

We bought our tickets at a little booth about a block away from the museum and then made our way over. We were walking towards the museum, when suddenly a policeman told us that we couldn’t walk towards the museum and we would have to go around. We were all really confused and so we made a wide arch around the many police cars and officers. It was then that we realized that the Neues Museum that was closed. There were police everywhere and they wouldn’t let anyone walk towards the museum.

About fifteen minutes passed when suddenly we saw some movement at the doors to the museum. There were a number of people running around with umbrellas and a few of the cars had driven up to the doors. Eventually, a couple came out of the museum and they stopped to take some pictures and then were ushered into the car. Once the car was out of sight we were allowed to enter the museum.

We asked an employee behind the desk who the visitors were and he said it was the future president of Mexico. Finally we had an explanation for the protesters!

The Neues Museum has a really great exhibit on the Egyptians and their prize possession is the bust of Nefertiti. It was really beautifully sculpted and I learned that it was actually used as a model for other busts. One of her eyes is even fake so that it could be used to teach students how to set the eyes.

Tired from a day full of museums we sloshed back towards our hostel in the rain. We were all sad about leaving Berlin so early. We kept on saying, “if only we had one more day!”

Finally, I looked at Ari and Addison and said, “do you just want to stay another day?”

It didn’t take very long for us to start planning the many things we would do with an extra day.

Day 62: Berlin

Berlin is impossible to tackle in only two days.

We were very ambitious though and decided that if we only had two days we were going to make the most of them, from dawn till dusk.

Our first destination was Checkpoint Charlie. It is one of the more famous points of crossing between West Berlin and East Berlin.

The sign says, “You are entering the American Sector. Carrying weapons off duty forbidden. Obey traffic rules”.

Looking towards the East.

We walked up towards the checkpoint coming from the East, which was a good choice, because just before reaching the checkpoint there was an outdoor history exhibit. Learning about history in the safety of a classroom is always informative, but actually standing where the events took place gave me chills. Looking from East to West, I really felt like everything was suddenly put into perspective.

Throughout the city there are different colored bricks laid into the road. These trace the outline of where the wall used to stand. There Checkpoint Charlie museum is just to the left.

The Checkpoint Charlie museum was a little overwhelming. Imagine the entire history of WW II to the end of the Cold War, in four different languages, covering every single wall of the museum from top to bottom. I tried to read everything, but halfway through the first room my eyes were already swimming.

The best part of the museum was actually the stories about how people crossed the wall without getting caught. Some people swam, some people used zip-lines, others dug tunnels, one group actually built an entire hot air balloon and flew across the wall. The most popular seemed to be hiding in cars. The examples went from simply hiding in the trunk, to turning someone into the equivalent of a car seat. It was inspiring to see the lengths people would go to for freedom.

The last Kremlin Flag, hung on the side of the Checkpoint Charlie Museum.

After Checkpoint Charlie, we headed down the road a little until we came upon the museum called “Topography of Terrors”. Part of the wall has been left up in this area, and below the wall is some of the remnants of the headquarters of the Gestapo and the SS. All along the bottom of the wall is some more history, this time centered more around WW II and the cruelty of the Nazi party.

The museum and the old headquarters is below street level, while the wall is above.

A part of the wall left standing just above the headquarters.

Next we walked to the Jewish Museum, which is a must see for anyone who goes to Berlin. In fact, it was probably one of my favorite parts of the whole trip.

The first part of the museum is the most moving. It was built by Daniel Libeskind, who had a vision for the museum as a place where not only the things inside the building are important, but the building itself is critical to the understanding of Jewish history.

Upon entering the museum we had to walk down a flight of stairs that opened up into a crisscrossing of distorting hallways. Although the ceiling of these hallways are level, the floor is not. This made it seem as if the further I walked down the hall, the smaller it was getting. Libeskind calls these hallways Axis. There is the Axis of the Holocaust, Axis of Exile and Axis of Continuity.

The Axis of the Holocaust is a hallway with stories of those who had been influenced by the Holocaust. At the end of the hallway is an almost invisible door that leads into the Holocaust Tower. The Holocaust Tower is something I will never forget. The walls of the tower are completely smooth and there is nothing at all inside except for a small slit in the roof that allows only the faintest amount of daylight into the tower. The walls of the tower slope in until they reach a point directly under the light, which allowed me to stand between two of the walls and feel them pressing in on me. It was quite except for the hush of cars outside on the street. Standing there in the dark is hopefully the closest I will ever come to knowing what it was like to be trapped, to know that you were probably going to die, and yet the world is moving on without you and doesn’t even know or care that you exist.

The Axis of Exile led outside to a garden filled with blocks of stone. The ground was tilted and the stones were also angled, just enough to make it hard to walk without getting dizzy. Again, I could almost feel what it must have been like to be kicked out of your country, to flee, and to feel as if you were in exile. Sometimes I would see other people in the garden, but then they would disappear and it was like they had never been there in the first place.

However, there are trees growing on top of these stones, in which I felt represented hope and a new opportunity.

Lastly was the Axis of Continuity. This lead up the Sackler Staircase, which from the bottom looked as if it went on forever. This axis leads to two millennia of German Jewish history. However, before reaching the history exhibit, Libeskind forces everyone to walk through what he calls a Void. Voids are areas of the museum with nothing in them. They are painted completely white and there are many of them throughout the museum, but only one is open to the public. They represent death, which can’t really be represented by anything in this world. I felt like these voids really allowed each person who entered to fill it with their own feelings and beliefs about death. For everyone death is something different and therefore it shouldn’t be represented in any particular way.

Sackler Staircase from the top.

Walking through the only open void, the Memory Void, led us to an exhibit created by Menashe Kadishman. This exhibit is created out of 10,000 faces welded out of pieces of metal and dedicated to all the victims of war and violence. They are scattered on the floor and those who would like to can walk upon them, but not quietly. As people walked on the faces the clang of sharp metal rang throughout the entire void. I believe it was created to show people that no matter how carefully you might step your actions will still effect those around you.

The faces of the Memory Void.

The last and final axis was the Axis of Continuity. It was the permanent exhibit about Jewish history, culture and traditions.

After the museum we were all starving, so we went out to search for a little known restaurant called Zur Letzten Instanzwhich one of Addison’s roommates from Berlin had suggested. Allegedly, Napoleon Bonaparte ate there at one point, but really the food itself was worth the visit. The dishes were on the more expensive side, but the portions were large and it was probably one of the best meals I’ve had so far at a restaurant.

The restaurant is tucked into a side street, keeping it off the main track.

Inside was very cute and cozy. We were probably one of the few tourists there. The plaque on the table shows where Napoleon supposedly sat.

After lunch we still had half a day left, so we went to the DDR museum. This was another of my favorite museums. Unlike most museums, this one allowed you to interact with everything. There was nothing you couldn’t play with and although it did have some interesting history, it mostly talked about how people lived in the DDR, which I find really interesting.

By the time we left the museum it was dark and everything was closed, so we caught a tram back to our hostel, stopping briefly to check out the left over festivities from Oktoberfest.

The fest was located on Alexanderplatz. It wasn’t very crowded, but most of the stands were still out.

The Radio Tower.

Ari and I couldn’t resist the smell coming from the candy/popcorn stand, so we bought chocolate covered strawberries.

Day 60: Trümmelbach Falls

The following day we woke up to the pouring rain, so we figured it would be the perfect day to go visit one of the caves in the area. We arrived just in time to catch the bus, but when we asked the driver for directions, he informed us that the caves were closed because of flooding.

That little setback didn’t stop us. We had also wanted to visit Trümmelbach Falls, so we took a train there instead.

That day was overcast and never stopped raining, but we weren’t put out by it, considering that we all know what Oregon weather is like.

As we drove along the road, the mountains towered above us with small waterfalls throughout the cliffs. Some of the falls even seemed to empty into nothing, becoming only a misty cloud halfway up the mountain.

Once we arrived at the falls the surrounding area was so beautiful that I took out my camera and turned it on to take some pictures. It was only then that I realized I had made one of the biggest camera mistakes one could make. Charging the battery and then not putting it back in the camera.

At first I was really upset that I had forgotten my battery, but later I realized it was probably for the best, because we got completely soaked through.

Despite my camera mishap, the falls were amazing and I can’t even believe there is such a place in the world. This particular falls isn’t massive like Niagara or even that tall. From a distance it’s almost impossible to even see the falls, but this is because most of the falls isn’t outside, but inside the mountain.

There are ten different “stops” along the falls. The first eight or so can be reached by an elevator, which you can ride up and then walk down a path along the falls. The last few lookout points have to be walked, but in reality the entire hike up and down only takes a half hour if no stops are made.

Because we wanted to get some exercise and breathe in some fresh air, we decided to just walk the entire thing. The first and probably most impressive stop along the falls is just to the right of the elevator. We walked up the short flight of stairs not really expecting much, but when we rounded the corner we were met by a massive roaring spout of water shooting horizontally from a hole in the mountainside. It was spectacular!

We stood there getting completely wet, but all we could do was look at each other in amazement and laugh. There was one corner where we could stand right next to the spout of water and feel the wind and mist. It almost felt like we were standing directly under the falls.

Half of the hike is outside, while the other half is inside a sort of crack in the mountain. Inside the mountain there are lights all along the stairs and corridors, so it was easy to walk and the stairs were nice and even, making it an easy hike. It was really cool to see how the waterfall had carved a tunnel right through the mountain. Sometimes, we were so deep in the middle of the mountain that all we could see was a slim crack of sunlight high above.

Afterwards, we were all completely soaked through our jeans and in Ari’s case her purse. My purse seems to not only be theft proof, but also water proof, which was lucky because I had my battery-less camera inside.

That night we had another wonderful dinner and we watched “Whose Line” while drinking hot chocolate and listening to the rain outside.

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The following day we boarded another train (this time everyone made it safe and sound) and headed up to Berlin.

We arrived later that night and checked into our room at The Circus. It was a really nice hostel, with very friendly people as well as secure and clean. We decided against going out that night, because we were so tired, so we ate unlimited pasta served at the hostel until we were full and then called it an early night.

The lounge of the Circus

Day 59: Jungfraujoch

I had never heard of Interlaken before going there, so it was all thanks to Ari that I even made it there in the first place! It’s almost a given that if you go to Switzerland there are going to be mountains, and big ones none the less, so I wasn’t surprised when Ari informed us that just an hour from Interlaken was one of the highest train stations in Europe.

The station is called Jungfraujoch and it stands 3,454 meters high or 11,333 feet.

The night before we had asked one of the employees at the hostel, which day was going to be nicer. She told us immediately to go on Monday, because the following day was going to have horrible weather.

Monday morning, after a fitful night of sleep (mostly everyone in the room was snoring that night), we woke up to a bright day. There were a few clouds in the sky that covered the mountains, but even before we had finished breakfast they had begun to clear away.

There are multiple ways to reach Jungfraujoch. All throughout the little valleys there are a number of small villages, all of which are connected by train. Admittedly, getting to Jungfraujoch was pretty expensive (over 100 swiss francs), but we got to ride on the train the entire way up and none of the destinations points at the top cost any money. However, not everyone who visits Jungfraujoch has to take the trains all the way up. If we had had more time in Interlaken, hiking part of the way up would have been wonderful. There are plenty of hiking trails around the area that make it pretty simple, but as it was, we traveled by train all the way up, from Interlaken, to Lauterbrunnen, switched trains to Kleine Scheidigg, and finally boarded one last train to Jungfraujoch.

The entire journey from bottom to top is amazing and breathtaking. At first we were low in the mountains and our view consisted of rolling hills overshadowed by giant craggy cliffs, but as we climbed up the side of the mountain the world began to unfold around us. Suddenly we could see hundreds of peaks stretching out and many small villages tucked safely inside the valleys.

Looking back down the hill from where we came, all we could see was bright green grass and trees, but looking ahead, the landscape drastically changed and suddenly all I could see was snow, crumbling rocks and barren land.

About half way up we were able to spot the end station, it’s so high and yet it still doesn’t reach the summit! On the right of the Jungfraujoch station is Jungfrau at 4,158 meters or 13,642 feet. To the left of the station is Mönch, which is a little shorter at 4,107 meters or 13,475 feet.

Once we reached Kleine Scheidegg the train basically dissapears into the mountain and the rest of the way up we had no view. There are, however, two spots where the train stops and we were allowed to leave the train to see the view. One of the stops was called Eigerwand (Eiger Wall) and the other Eismeer (Sea of Ice).

View from Eigerwand.

As we climbed it was easy to feel the difference in temperature, luckily the train was heated, although the one before hadn’t been. After about an hour and a half of riding we finally arrived at Jungfraujoch. The tunnel we arrived in was long and dark and as I stepped out of the train, it hadn’t quite hit me just how high up in the mountains I was.

At Jungfraujoch there are a number of things people can do, but in general people stick to the “guided” tour. I say guided, but really there were only signs telling us where to go. After exiting the train we had to walk down a long tunnel until we came to the Jungfrau Panorama. Basically this is a giant room with wonky projector screens that show you what you’re going to see outside. It was kinda cool, but at the same time I would have liked to keep the view a surprise. However, the projections of the view, as you can probably imagine, are nothing like the actual view itself.

To get to the very top of Jungfraujoch we had to take an elevator to the Sphinx. The Sphinx is the platform outside on the mountain. It has a inside viewing area with two levels and then an outside viewing area with a large deck. It was one of the most amazing and absolutely freezing views I have ever experienced. I had dressed appropriately for going to Switzerland, but I hadn’t realized that we would actually be going so high into the mountains and I forgot a hat or a scarf. Despite my lack of hat and scarf, when I stepped outside I completely forgot about how cold I was.

The Aletsch Glacier

Standing there I felt so insignificant, just looking at the Aletsch Glacier and imagining the sheer power it must take to carve through mountains. I took so many pictures of the same view that my fingers were beginning to hurt from the cold and I could already feel my ears turning red and my cheeks stinging, but we must have stayed out there for at least twenty minutes. We had been completely lucky and there were barely any clouds in the sky, so we could see for miles and miles on end. It was the perfect day.

From the Sphinx we were apparently suppose to be able to see France, Germany and Italy, although I was all turned around and really couldn’t tell which way each country was.

A helicopter far off in the distance. There were also a few jets flying overhead. They would circle the mountain and then come around and fly over Jungfraujoch, probably showing off for the tourists.

On the opposite side from the glacier. One of my favorite things was the low-lying clouds hiding in the valleys.

After we had officially all frozen into icicles we decided to head back inside and check out the rest of the area.

Exiting the Sphinx, the tour signs led us down a long hallway that came out in a room with a giant snowglobe. This part of Jungfraujoch is called Alpine Sensation. Basically, it was a long tunnel full of lights and music, and some history.

The giant snowglobe that would change from day to night and then through the seasons too.

The second thing I was most looking forward to at Jungfraujoch, after the view, was the Ice Palace. To enter the palace we had to walk down a flight of stairs and then step into a very long tunnel completely made of ice. It was really exciting and fun to slide around on the ice with our shoes and walk through little tunnels made completely of ice.

The entrance to the palace.

A small ice tunnel that I could basically touch the roof of with my head if I stood up straight.

An example of the ice sculptures that were placed throughout the palace.

After goofing around in the ice palace we headed to the last stop on the tour, the Plateau. The Plateau is off to the side of the Berghaus, or the main building, and it allows people to walk out onto the mountain. There were ropes on either side of the Plateau, but it was actually a little precarious walking out there, because it was so slippery. Right outside the door the snow sloped up to the Plateau, so we had to shuffle our way inch by inch until we could reach flat ground. It was hilarious seeing so many people shuffling along up the hill. Luckily no one slipped.

The small hill everyone had to climb to reach the Plateau. It wasn’t actually that steep, but ice makes everything tricky.

After we took some photos Ari and I decided to have a race down the hill, so we both sat down and using our hands pushed ourselves down the hill on our butt. It was a safer and much more fun way of getting down.

Completely frozen and exhausted from the altitude, we decided to get lunch at one of the restaurants in the Berghaus. We were lucky, because after we were done eating the Plateau was closed, maybe because it was too icy.

We ended the day by traveling back down the mountain. This time we went through Grindewald instead of Lauterbrunnen, because Ari and I wanted to explore some of the smaller villages. We stopped for a half hour in Grindelwald, giving us just enough time to walk down the main street and enjoy the disappearing sun.

Walking the small streets of Grindelwald.

We arrived back at the hostel late that night and thanks to a special deal we had with the hostel we were served a three course meal at one of the local restaurants called Des Alpes. It was so delicious that we decided to return the following night. For one of my dinners I ate Rösti, which is a traditional Swiss dish made out of potatoes, onions, cheese and bacon. Yum!

All in all our trip to Jungfraujoch was a day that fell perfectly into place. We got lucky with the weather, we were able to walk out onto the Plateau before it closed, and we were served a cheap and delicious dinner.

St. Stephens is a central point in Vienna. There is nowhere you can go in the first district and not see the South Tower looming above the rest of the buildings. Therefore, I thought I would dedicate an entire post to St. Stephens Cathedral.

St. Stephens was built in 1137, during the rule of the Babenbergers. Originally it was built in the Romanesque style, but later it was rebuilt in the Gothic style and also Baroque.

I’ve visited St. Stephens a number of times already, simply because there is so much to do in the area. St. Stephens sits right in the middle of a huge shopping street called Kärntnerstraße. All around the cathedral are clothes shops, food stands, restaurants, ice cream, and always plenty of tourists. On a nice day, I’ve often walked from the Institute past St. Stephens and eventually I’m only one U-Bahn station away from my apartment.

The front of St. Stephens.

The lower part of the front is Romanesque, but the upper part, including the small towers, is Gothic.

Inside of St. Stephens, much of the front section is Gothic. It’s easy to tell, because of the intricate details carved from stone.

I love the criss-crossing lines on the ceiling. I think they add so much character to the building and make the ceiling look like it was put together like a puzzle.

The pillar supporting the pulpit. It was like a maze of interlocking pillars filled with small swirls and tiny sculptures. I can’t even begin to image the skill and steady hand it must have taken to create such a masterpiece.

Below is the architect, named Anton Pilgram. He can be seen just under the pulpit, peeking out from a small window.

The main altar of St. Stephens. It was redone in Baroque.

To the right of the central nave is Friedrich III. He was Holy Roman Emperor and also Archduke of Austria. He was the last emperor to be crowned in Rome by the Pope. Friedrich III, along with his son Maximilian I, gained a lot of territory for empire through marriage. Also buried in St. Stephens are, Prince Eugene of Savoy, Rudolf IV, and some victims of the Black Plague.

St. Stephens has two towers, but there is a huge difference between them. The South Tower is much higher than the North Tower. In 1359 Rudolf I * ordered the construction of the South Tower. It instantly became a symbol of Vienna. Later on the construction of the North Tower was initiated, but it was never finished.

Legend goes that one of the masons, working on St. Stephen’s North Tower, was in love with the architect’s daughter. Her name was Maria. The mason asked her father for his approval, but the father said that the mason could only marry Maria if he could make the North Tower just as high and as beautiful as the South Tower in one year. As the year progressed the mason realized he would never complete the tower in time and so he made a deal with the devil. The devil promised to help if the mason didn’t speak any holy names. The mason agreed, but one day, in excitement, he called his love’s name. Therefore, he was struck on the head by a scaffold and the North Tower was never finished.

In reality, most people believe that the architect just ran out of money, but the legend sounds cooler.

 The South Tower

The North Tower

Anyone can get to the top of both towers. From what I’ve heard, the North Tower has an elevator, but I decided to brave the South Tower and climb all the way to the top, step by step. Annika and Addison also came with me and together we made the climb.

It was actually a very intense workout. The staircase was always spiraling to the right, which made for a dizzying climb and the steps weren’t large enough for my entire foot to step on. The other tourists climbing the tower made for a difficult climb too. I often had to stop and squish against the wall so that others could pass and for some reason there were a lot of people who thought it would be a good idea to bring ALL their shopping bags up to the top with them. It wasn’t.

Climbing all that way was very claustrophobic. The stairs never seemed to end, there were hardly any windows and our voices echoed off the walls, making it hard to tell if there were people above or below. At one point, I felt like I had been climbing forever and that I would have to keep climbing forever. It was a little nerve-racking.

Our first resting point.

We emerged from the stairs, into a room full of windows. I’m assuming a bell used to hang there, but the room was empty except for a few gargoyles. Off to the right the stairs continued to the top.

The view was worth the exhausting climb. One of the things I love about St. Stephens is the tiled roof. I’ve never seen anything like it on a church before and I think the zig-zags are really fun and bright.

The Prater ferris wheel.

From St. Stephens it probably takes 15 minutes to get to the Prater by U-Bahn.

One of the decorations on top of the church. It looks like it might be the symbol for the Habsburgs, the two-headed eagle.

The roof of the church had a row of these cute little windows.

Climbing down the tower was just as hard, but mostly because I got really dizzy. I was constantly turning in a circle, but to my eyes it looked like I was never getting anywhere, because the steps never changed.

The back section of the roof has tiles that create the two-headed eagle of the Habsburgs.

The back of St. Stephens. This is where all the carriages wait for tourists.

Detail on the North Tower. You can also go to the top of this tower, this one has an elevator, so there’s no need to climb.

There are a number of gargoyles all along the outside of St. Stephens. Some of them are still in really good shape, while others might be missing a head. Many of the statues from St. Stephens and the original glass windows are now in the Wien Museum.

On one of our excursions our professor said that St. Stephens is always being worked on and there’s hardly ever a time when you can see the entire building. Right now the South Tower is being spiffed up, so much of the bottom half is covered. Often you can see workers up on the very top of the steeple.

EDIT 10/17/12: I’m still learning about all the Habsburgs and since they’re all named basically the same thing sometimes I get confused. Rudolf I was the first Habsburg ruler, but Rudolf IV was actually the one called “The Founder”.

EDIT 11/10/12:

Addison and I decided to visit the crypt under St. Stephens, which is a guided tour only. The first half we were in the “new” part of the crypt, which had the sarcophagi of Rudolf IV. Many of the Habsburg’s organs are also kept in the crypt separate from their bodies, which are in the Imperial Crypt just a few blocks away.

We then headed further down into the ground to the older part of the crypt, which is where victims of the plague are buried. We walked down a long dark tunnel until we came to the first open room. The room we stood in was completely surrounded in stone, and during WW II it was used as a bomb shelter. The creepy thing is that it was once a room that held bodies and in the floor were still some bones that had been ground into the dirt.

There was a small room just to the left of that, which we could see through an grated window. In the room were piles of bones and the last remnants of some coffins. People actually used to pay to be buried in this room, but over time their coffins rotted away and now it’s mostly bones.

Next we made our way past an open hole in the ground where they threw the bodies of plague victims. It astounds me that they buried people right in the center of the city. The bones completely filled the hole and were beginning to pile up to the opening. Last we came to another room, where they had begun to stack the bones making a wall of skeletons, so that more people could be buried there.

It was an interesting, yet morbid tour.

As a part of our program we have to do some community service work. Lucky for us, the Institute has some good connections and Friday we were given the chance to work in a vineyard run by Josef Regner.

We woke up early that morning so that we could catch a train that would take us about 45 minutes outside of Vienna to the Weinviertel, which means wine quarter. It was promising to be a good day, but we were all a little nervous about what we would be doing. From what I’ve heard, harvesting grapes is a delicate process and so I thought that perhaps we might only get to watch as the professional workers picked the grapes.

As soon as we arrived, I realized that I had been dead wrong. In a rush, we all piled into a van, which was driven by Josef’s wife Anita and co-piloted by her dog, Lila. She drove us directly to the field. Right as we got out we were given clippers for the vines, quickly shown how to cut the grapes and then we were off!

The first field we worked in.

It was one of the most enjoyable ways to spend a Friday. The sun was shinning, we had a wonderful view, and every once in a while we were able to taste the delicious grapes. All around us were other workers, some were from Austria, but others were also from Slovakia and Hungary. We ended up working for about two hours straight and probably got around six rows done. It was really soothing to stand out in the sun and cut grapes, just working with our hands and not really thinking about much else.

By the end of the first session my hands were completely covered in grape juice and super sticky. Everyone piled around the van and we all took turns rinsing off our hands with water from a bucket.

All the grapes we picked! With everyone working together we must have gotten at least three wagons full of grapes by the end of the day.

We all had to pile into the back of the van, which was really dark and had a tiny lightbulb in the corner that lit only a portion of the van. While we drove, I talked to a couple who lived one town over. They were really interested in the wine grown in Oregon and also about our stay in Austria. Soon we arrived at the Heuriger, which is a small specialized tavern in Austria and serves new wines. When we arrived Anita had cooked us pumpkin soup, lasagna and a variation of vegetable salads.

Below is only a portion of the Heuriger. There is a house to the left and also a little shop out of sight. The actual dinning area was quite large and could have probably fit 50 to 60 people, but we were all able to fit at one table. They also had a little garden with pigs in a pen.

After lunch we headed back out to work, this time we worked up on a hill, which gave us a wonderful view of the entire valley. While we worked, Anita’s grandfather kept us company, telling us about friends and family he had in America and also scaring us with a giant grasshopper. He was the perfect example of a cute old Austrian man. He wore a little hat with a feather in the side and he was a little hunched from all the long years working in the fields.

From our vantage point we could see a little bit of Vienna off in the distance, but mostly our view consisted of rolling fields of grass and pumpkins.

After another hour or two of work we headed back to the Heuriger, finished with the day’s work. We had a delicious cake for dessert and afterwards, when everyone else had left, the grandfather was kind enough to show us around the town. We walked up the one hill in the entire town, passing by the school (which is apparently where he was born) and headed towards the wine cellar.

To get to the wine cellars all we had to do was walk down Kellergasse, which means cellar alley.

When we arrived the owner of the vineyard, Josef, was a little busy cleaning the cellar, so the grandfather led us around the back. As soon as I rounded the corner I felt like I had been placed on the set of The Hobbit, we were led up a small pebbled trail towards a tiny door placed in the side of a hill. Once we went inside we walked down steep stone steeps to go down into the cellar.

The entire cellar was made completely out of dirt. I touched one of the walls and it was moist and earthy. The tunnels leading to each individual cellar we small, long and dark, only lit by little bulbs at our feet.

We were led through the different sections of the cellar, one had fermenting tanks, one with barrels full of wine, one was a room with a giant table, a fireplace and a cool midlevel looking chandelier and another had bottled wine just waiting to be tasted. Eventually, we reached another flight of steps leading back outside and I was surprised to find that we had basically walked through the entire hill.

  After entering the cellar at a completely different spot, we came out of the ground using the door through the second house on the left.

We then got to taste test Sturm, which is wine stopped early in the fermentation process. Sturm is one of Austria’s specialties. It is low in alcohol content, looks a little foggy, and can either be sweet or sour. While we drank we watched the grapes we picked go into the cellar.

After test-tasting we thanked both Josef and the grandfather and headed to the train station. To our surprise it was already 5 in the afternoon! We were all exhausted, but full of delicious food, Sturm, and the satisfaction of a hard day’s work.